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January 2022 Rabbi Arnow's Message

I was on a Zoom program one day in early December for three and a half hours. It was painful. I think we might be reaching the beginning of the real Zoom era – when Zoom is used selectively to bridge distance, for short periods of time. But I hope that the era of long Zooms is coming to an end.
For us at Kol Rinah, we, and I, have noticed that attendance at Zoom programs is waning. But in-person gatherings are very much not back to how they used to be. People don’t linger. We don’t serve much food. Many don’t feel comfortable coming at all, or are just out of the habit.
Attendance at services is roughly half (or less) of what it was pre-COVID. And yet people are not quitting Kol Rinah in droves; rather, our membership is actually up slightly!
COVID, I think, accelerated certain existing trends – a continued interest in synagogue life and community, and a decreasing interest in prayer and “services.” Another time, we can discuss what is causing these trends. But for now I’m interested in exploring responses.
One response is to reinvest and refocus on prayer and services, to try to reverse or at least slow this trend. After all, we are a synagogue – what else should we be focusing on?
But putting the same (or greater) resources into prayer services that are serving half as many people as previously, scarcely 10% of our congregational population in a given month now, feels like it’s ignoring reality, and the hundreds of people – people like you–speaking with their feet.
The question, then, is what else should we be doing, if not only (re)focusing on prayer? Should we refocus on social action and social justice? Or learning and intellectual life? Maybe we should focus on community and relationships, or thinking about stages of life and lifecycle periods and moments, or holidays and seasons.
There is, of course, no obvious and perfect solution or path. I find myself thinking about what it would look like to reinvent much of what we do, to make it feel fresh, exciting, current, deep, fun, rejuvenating, nourishing, and connecting.
We can’t do it all though. Are we willing to let go of some of what we’ve done to create possibilities, to innovate, to make space and time for some things to end and other things to begin and grow?
What would you be willing to let go of? And what would you be interested in seeing and building? I’d love to hear, and with each of you, to help Kol Rinah grow into its new self.
Sun, June 16 2024 10 Sivan 5784